By Vishani Ragobeer
Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley has emphasised that it is simply natural for countries to implement local content laws with the development of new industries and the potential for citizens to benefit more.
Mottley, who is also the Lead CARICOM Head of Government for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), said that concerns about Guyana’s new Local Content law were discussed at the Thirty-Third Inter-Sessional Meeting of Heads of Government of CARICOM held in Belize this week.
Guyana’s historic Local Content law has been the subject of robust discussion. Now, the Barbadian Prime Minister related that it has prompted Heads of Government of CARICOM to agree on acceptable local content provisions, particularly for new industries.
“Within the context of the discussions on CSME, we placed before Heads (of Government) and Heads accepted that there is a need for us to review the issue of local content,” Prime Minister said in response to a question posed by the News Room at a press conference on Wednesday night.
Local Content laws, she reasoned, are particularly crucial in new industries. During a recent visit to Guyana, Prime Minister Mottley strongly defended local content provisions in the Caribbean, stating that citizens must be able to gainfully participate in the development of their countries.
Guyana’s new law strikes a delicate balance between foreign companies’ operations and investing in and using local goods and services. And it was prompted by the new oil and gas industry.
With this new law generating much discussion, the Prime Minister noted that an “open-ended committee of member states” has already been formed to analyse this matter. The committee’s work is expected to commence soon.
Prime Minister Mottley clarified, however, that the “issue” which will be discussed by the Heads of Government is what percentage of local content would be acceptable, and for how long those local content provisions should be valid.
“So we’re going to do the discussions among ourselves with the view to recommending the full Conference of Heads what the appropriate framework will be, such that no one will be held in breach for wanting to do what is most natural,” the Prime Minister explained.
She added, “… we accept that we share the burden in hard times then we must share the bounty in good times too and that is all that we understand Guyana and other countries that want to introduce local content in emerging industries are seeking to do.”
Concerns about Guyana’s Local Content law were, however, raised by the Head of the CARICOM Private Sector Organisation (CPSO) Gervase Warner. In a leaked email, Warner questioned whether this new law may violate the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
For context, the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas led to the creation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). The CSME is an ambitious initiative that is expected to facilitate economic integration and the movement of goods, services and capital throughout the CARICOM without tariffs or other restrictions.
But, fully implementing the CSME has been hindered by the policies and laws of some CARICOM Member States, especially Trinidad and Tobago.
Despite widespread criticism from Guyana’s private sector, the CPSO later said that it was intent on engaging CARICOM and Guyana’s government on the recently enacted Local Content law.
On Monday, CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett noted that the CPSO’s concerns were not formally raised with the regional bloc.
On Wednesday, however, Prime Minister Mottley noted that the CPSO, the body that deems itself the apex private sector body in CARICOM, raised its concerns in relation to Guyana’s local content law with the CARICOM Heads.